By: Jill Knittel, Founder & President at JK Exec
For organizations that are passionate about giving back to the community or want to promote employee involvement in non-profit organizations, defining business pillars is an excellent opportunity to align your team in a new and impactful way. Not only does involvement in charitable organizations benefit local causes that are in need of support, but it provides opportunities for networking and professional development for your workforce.
Here’s everything you need to know about defining business pillars as we head into the New Year.
What are business pillars?
Business pillars are organizations or causes that a business actively decides to donate their time and funding to in any given year. This can be done through donations or volunteer work, depending on what causes your team chooses to support and the organizations’ needs.
Should your pillars remain the same every year? Or be adjusted annually?
There are benefits to keeping your pillars consistent year after year, but it really depends on the passions and goals of the team. Completing exercises like having your staff write down three causes they are most passionate about can easily identify the values and goals that are top of mind for them in the New Year. If you find that your team’s interests have shifted, you can adjust your pillars accordingly. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic led many companies to consider organizations that service basic needs like FoodLink as vital new pillars due to the critical needs of the community. Making sure that your staff feels like an integral part of defining the corporate pillars ensures their engagement and involvement in any planned support initiatives in the next year.
Once pillars are defined, what are some ways that companies can serve those pillars?
Often, companies end up supporting organizations that members of the team already volunteer their time to, and in that case, the team is already serving the pillar. At JK Exec, we identify from the start of the year who on our team will be the representative of each pillar so that we ensure that all our focuses are getting the same attention. From there, we let our staff determine the needs of the organizations we are supporting and how they and the team as a whole can be of service. These support needs can vary, but typically non-profits seek time, talent, and treasure.
How can leaders encourage their staff to get more involved with supporting the defined pillars?
Taking the time to sit down and have a conversation with your team about where they are already involved in the community or where they want to be involved is a great way to start. It depends on the size of your team, but the more people involved, the better. Some companies define one pillar for the entire staff, whether it’s poverty, kids, or another issue, and the executive team sets expectations on how involved the staff should be in community service. Others allow each internal team to choose their own pillars and collaborate on initiatives to support. It really depends on the size and nature of your business.
However, creating incentives like charging no Paid Time Off (PTO) against time used for volunteerism can be a helpful way to encourage more participation amongst your team. Also, having meetings with your whole team where common goals and planning can be aligned ensures widespread involvement.
Is there a cap on how many pillars a company should define every year? Why or why not?
At JK Exec, we find that supporting three causes in any given year has been the most sustainable option for us. It also happens that many of our team’s values have remained consistent, which is likely to be the case in most workplace environments. Once employees’ service goals are defined, leaders should focus more on identifying trends rather than applying restrictions to the number of annual pillars to be established.
Should companies promote their pillars on their website or social media? Why or why not?
This is heavily dependent on your industry and the nature of your business. If non-profit organizations make up a portion of your client base, you don’t want any to feel excluded if their missions don’t align with your pillars. It is often best to keep business pillars internal for that reason.
Business pillars are an excellent way to instill a culture of giving. Not only do they encourage cohesiveness and comradery amongst your team, allowing your staff to work together towards charitable goals can create positive impacts for the communities in which your employees live and work.